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Proposed redistricting shakes up 3rd District

Wisconsin Republicans released their proposed congressional redistricting map Friday, which was met almost immediately with Democrats' cries of partisanship.

Among other changes, the proposed plan would add a section of central Wisconsin to Rep. Ron Kind's 3rd District, absorbing parts of the current 6th and 7th districts.

The 3rd District traditionally has hugged the Mississippi River and currently extends from the Illinois border to the northern edge of St. Croix County.

The proposed configuration would stop at Pierce County and dogleg through Tomah and then extend in a narrow path up and around to Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point.

The new boundaries would place St. Croix County in the geographically large 7th District, which encompasses most of northwest and north central Wisconsin. The 7th Congressional District seat, held for decades by Democrat Dave Obey, is currently held by Republican Sean Duffy, a former Ashland County district attorney.

Kind, a Democrat, criticized the plan and called it an "incumbent protection map."

"I am especially troubled by the manipulation of expected outcomes and the gerrymandering drawn into the 3rd and 7th congressional districts," he said in a statement Friday.

He said the new map "goes so far as to dilute our communities," citing the breakup of towns that have been in the same district for more than 100 years.

Kind also called the process partisan and said he and other Democrats played virtually no role in the process. He called for a system like Iowa's, in which a judicial commission redraws the lines.

Courts may decide

In the last three rounds of redistricting, the courts have had to hash out Wisconsin's maps since legislators weren't able to agree.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca echoed Kind's concerns and accused Republicans of drawing up the plan in secret.

"The Republican legislative leaders are acting in their own self- interest and not in the best interests of the people of Wisconsin," he said in a statement.

The Legislature's vote on the proposal is expected on Tuesday, July 19.

Government entities must examine districts after every census to ensure each district has an equal population. Wisconsin gained more than 320,000 people since the 2000 census, so some district changes are necessary. However, while Wisconsin lost a House seat after the 2000 census, this year it retained its eight representatives.

This is the first time since the 1950s that Republicans control both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and the governor's office during the redistricting process. While legislative Democrats cannot stop the GOP's maps from being approved, some are going to court to stop them.

Former Democratic Senate leader Judy Robson of Beloit and 13 others want a three-judge federal panel to step in and draw non-partisan Assembly and Senate boundaries -- just like it had to do for the last three decades.